Questionable Decision

October 1, 2017

Well, I definitely should have gone out earlier. Though the need to fill up the fuel tank and leaving the house later than usual made that impossible.  I finally saw a neighboring boat, Synergy leaving.  It’s a beautiful boat — a cutter — and I’d never seen it out before.  They headed out toward the breakwater before I could get going.  I decided to keep the sail reefed because I didn’t know what to expect out there.  After raising the main, I headed out into what was pretty strong current.  It was strong enough, in fact, that I had to shift toward the bride to get any movement at all, and I felt like I wasn’t making any headway whatsoever as I tacked back and forth, hoping to get to the bay.  That’s where I saw other sailboats moving with full sails, and also where I thought I saw Synergy.

I finally made the decision to furl the Genoa and use the engine to get to the bay directly, like lots of other boats do. Once I got close., I shut off the engine, and nothing.  The wind had died down so much that I couldn’t get much of anywhere.  Now, I did play a bit with trying to catch the wind, and I did for a while.  I of course went to full sails, which helped some, but my opportunity to sail much at all went away.  I did see another boat from the marina — Finesse — which was nice, and I think they  may have had a spinnaker.  That was a dead giveaway; when you see that many boats with spinnakers flying, you know the wind has died.  Finally, after about 2.5 hours of trying, I gave up.

I might have done better earlier in the day, but I certainly can’t say that for sure.

Engine                                     45 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails after going out reefed

Chop, current                         Chop of about 2 feet; current moderate to strong

Wind                                       6-8, then very low

Time                                       3 hours

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Took A While

September 24, 2017

It seemed better for us to get out earlier rather than later because the winds were going to die down later.  We went out, and it seemed like the wind would be okay — until we stopped the engine, and were in irons at every point of sail  Eventually, we decided to head out to the bay using Hercules, who performed admirably.  We did this because two other boats did it and the skippers just appeared to be more experienced than me.  However, once we were almost to the bay markers, I still couldn’t catch the wind, and decided to head back toward the marina.  It was very frustrating.

Perhaps a half nautical mile away from the marina, the wind picked up, and we started to ride it.  And we rode the wind back and forth for another 2-2.5 hours.  Mind you, the wind remained light, and I sat on the leeward side almost all of the time, but it still qualified as a decent day sailing.

Engine                                     45 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails

Chop, current                          Low for both

Wind                                       Low then up to about 5

Time                                       4 hours

Watch the Water

September 17, 2017

The wind was light today, light enough and in specific directions that my wife and I didn’t get to the bay.  That wasn’t necessarily a problem, just makes the sailing a little different is all.  There were far fewer sailboats out than I thought would be out given the time of mid Sunday morning.  Those few who were out didn’t do any better than us.  The power boats were out, though, and while they weren’t particularly numerous, those that were out were going at incredible speeds.  This was probably the time I saw more powerboats really gunning their engines than ever before — perhaps because so few of them were out. In any case, that made the chop and wake a heck of a lot harder to manage.

I made a special effort to work on balancing the sails, which seemed to work, though even working this hard, the current prevented me from getting to the bay.  As we were finally coming in and the wind had died, I did notice that we were motoring on pretty smooth water, while the water between the marina and the bridge was still rippling, indicating that we could have sailed there.  We actually had done so for a bit, but I’m not fond of sailing near the bridge because of the chop beneath it and the powerboats that often make even bigger wakes by the bridge as well.

Definitely worth it.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       3-5, then 0

Time                                       3 hours

Just a Touch

September 13, 2017

Took a quick exit from work and headed to the marina for a short sail.  While the wind wasn’t perfect it got me where I needed to go.  There were a number of puffs along the way, and I sailed almost to the little outpost (including the fuel dock) by the edge of Solomons Island a couple of times as I tacked back and forth on the river before finally heading up toward the bay.

I did make the bay and just kissed if before coming in.  I tried a couple of times to sail into the basin, but just couldn’t make it safely with the current: perhaps one more pass would have done it, but it wasn’t worth it to me.

I did notice while I saw sailing that I should probably go back to the old method of self-steering with wraps around the tiller versus the newest method; it would just be a lot more secure.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main, Genoa reefed in several different positions

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-7

Time                                       3 hours

Not a Big Fan of Gusts

September 4, 2017

Given that the approaching storms and my C3 writer’s conference were coming up this week, this would be my only day to sail, so I took advantage of it.  I arrived at the marina at about 3:40, and saw a number of sailboats and powerboats out on the river.  I also noticed that the big 44 foot catamaran, Sand Dallor was not in its slip, so I thought I might get to see it in action.

Well, that didn’t happen, but I managed to raise the reefed main and head out.  It was very difficult to gauge the wind, as there were times when I was tempted to go to the full  main, then a minute later, the wind would gust, and I would be worried about how much of the Genoa or main I could let out to sail safely.  This went on for about an hour, with my going back and forth on the river to get to the bay, which I finally did.

Eventually, I decided to use my weight on the leeward side of the boat as much as anything to control heel and forward movement, and it ended up being a decent sail, especially when the wind moderated a little bit.  The current was strong though.  I will say that my changes with the Genoa produced a smoother sail than I’ve had I a while, so I think my attention to the headsail was a good thing.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main, Genoa reefed in several different positions

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-10

Time                                       4 hours

Worth It

August 30, 2017

After enduring more training than I cared to this day, I was able to motor out of the slip at 4:00 pm.  I quickly shook out the reef in the main and headed out, not really being able to tell if it would be worth it to head out, but I also knew there would be higher winds on Thursday.

Well, it was worth it.  Given how the wind was blowing, I was maybe 30 yards from the breakwater when I shut off Hercules and pointed toward the bay, and was able to get out into the bay on a single tack.  As the wind varied, I shifted from windward to leeward to keep moving and enjoyed the serenity of the sail.  I saw a lot of a Hunter 380 sailing on my side and then passing me. (Hey, 13 extra feet of waterline and a much heavier keel — he almost had to be faster).  But we handled ourselves quite well, thank you very much.

I decided to turn around at 6:15 and head back and while the Hunter was way ahead of me at that time as was another boat, we all seemed to turned back at the same time.  With a couple of tacks, I was heading back toward West Basin, but made a couple of other tacks to avoid the sailboat races.  Of course, this also meant that I was not heading straight in for a while, until I finally decided because of the lowering wind that I needed to lower the sails and motor in.  It was so late, I had to turn on my running lights, which is something I usually don’t want to do, especially since I don’t have a working stern light.  Fortunately, the Coast Guard wasn’t around to site me.  My next time sailing on Wednesday, I’m not going to worry about the races — make them go around me for a change.

All in all, definitely worth it, especially when I headed into the marina on almost pristine water.

Engine                                     45 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails, then reefed Genoa

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-10

Time                                       4 hours

 

Dolphins and Bell Buoys

August 20, 2017

Thanks to Ellen for asking when we were going sailing today.  I had thought about going out either in the morning or afternoon, and I was sitting outside reading the paper when Ellen asked when we were going out.  That prompted me to head to the computer to check the hourly forecast, where I discovered that the winds would be fine for the morning and non-existent for the afternoon.  We took that cue and headed out within 15 minutes.

There wasn’t too much action on the water as we headed out, and I knew it would take us awhile to hit the bay, but no matter.  On perhaps our second shift in direction back toward the river versus the bay, we encountered what must have been a pod of dolphins.

 

This was awesome!  They just swam around silently all around us.  Eventually, we turned away back into the bay and finally made it.  In fact we made it all the way to the bell buoy which is a fair distance away from West Basin, a little over 3 nautical miles as we were sailing.

Bell and Whistle Buoy 1

The wind was pretty high out there, probably 10 mph, and the wake and chop was uncomfortable.  We were thankful that we both took the motion sickness medicine before heading out.  And it was annoying that our top speed for that day was only about 4.5 knots, even with me adjusting the sails.  I’m not sure if I didn’t do it properly or not, but I was trying to balance the sails.  There was a good deal of weather helm however, so I know I still have a lot to learn.

We turned around at the bell buoy and made our way back toward the marina even as the wind continued to lessen, and in fact not long into the river from the bay the river died completely, so Hercules was deployed for a while to get us home, and that happened very smoothly.

A lot of boats were just heading out as we were coming in, and I’m happy Ellen asked me that original question, because it gave us a great morning and early afternoon on the water.  A definite win.

Engine                                     50 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails and reefed sails

Chop, current                          Medium

Wind                                       Up to 10 and down to 0

Time                                       4 hours